203. Taste of Fear (GB 1961)  

AKA: Scream of Fear


Wheelchair bound woman is terrorised  on the Cote d'Azur

Director: Seth Holt

Screenplay: Jimmy Sangster

Cinematography: Douglas Trumbull

Starring: Susan Strasberg, Ronald Lewis, Ann Todd, Christopher Lee

Bit part: Leonard Sachs ('The Good Old Days'!)

Facts: Strasberg died of cancer after refusing conventional treatments; Lewis killed himself when his career took a nosedive; Sachs is one of the many showbiz importuners featured on this site, despite (or because of) being married to light comedy actress Eleanor Summerfield

Penny Appleby (Strasberg) is confined to a wheelchair following a childhood riding accident. She returns home to the South of France to see her father, but is told by her stepmother Jenny (Todd) that he has gone away for a few days. Later that night, Penny  sees a light in the summer house and goes to investigate. She sees the body of her father, propped up in a chair, and is transfixed by his lifeless eyes. (In no way, a rip off of Les Diaboliques.)

Penny tells chauffeur Bob (Lewis) who promises to help, but the body goes missing (in no way a rip off of Les Diaboliques) and Penny starts to doubt her sanity. Doctor Gerard (Lee) arrives and tells Jenny that Penny's mind may be unbalanced. This is compounded when Penny tells Lee that the body has reappeared and then disappeared (in no way a rip off.....)

What follows has more twists and turns than a twisty turny thing. Is Bob to be trusted? Is Jenny all that she seems? Is Penny? Do you honestly give a shite?

A Taste of Fear does rip off Les Diaboliques (plot, setting, atmosphere), but good direction, excellent  cinematography (from Douglas Trumbull, Steven Spielberg's favourite cinematographer and some good performances (especially Strasberg) make it more than watchable and its final plot twist is certainly the equal of its more distinguished (obvious) source.

Susan Strasberg was the daughter of Method guru Lee Strasberg and her career suffered by comparison/association. Her only other film of note is Frankenstein: the True Story, although she unsuccessfully auditioned for the part of Ann Fourmile in the movie spin-off of George and Mildred.